THE AUTUMN OF LIFE
AUTUMN (‘Fall’ in N America) is a beautiful time of year, isn’t it?
What a pity it’s followed by winter!
- I always associate autumn with shiny conkers on the nature table at school!
MY MOTHER HAD AN AUNT (Nelly) who was in an institution suffering from dementia… and after she’d visited her, my mother would bring home a bag full of shiny conkers that she’d collected from the hospital grounds… WONDERFUL!
- And shuffling through piles of dry leaves lying on the pavement
- And chasing games when it was windy
- And Harvest Festivals with all those memorable hymns…
SOME OF US HAVE ENTERED THE AUTUMN YEARS OF OUR LIFE CYCLE…
- Some of our leaves have started to turn a bit brown and crinkly at the edges!
- Some of our branches are not quite as strong as they used to be!
- Our trunks are not as straight and upright as when we were younger
- Perhaps we look back wistfully at the Spring and Summer times of life
- And maybe shiver a little at the thought of the wintertime ahead
THE OLDER WE GET, THE MORE WE TEND TO LOOK BACK…
~ What’s your earliest memory?
~ Of all the people you’ve met, whom would you most like to meet again?
- And who were you glad to see the back of!
~ Which year of your life would you most like to live again?
- And which time don’t you even want to think about, it’s so painful?
LIFE IS, OF COURSE, FULL OF UPS AND DOWNS
We all know that time moves faster as we get older…
- Each day seems so short that it’s scarcely worth getting up!
- But we learn to appreciate the ordinary things of life much more…
- How much older people enjoy their food!
- And we give thanks that we can go to the toilet!
My dad is well into his 90s and struggles with the fact that his life has become much narrower… he can’t walk up hills any more and he’ll never play football again!
- But he’s gradually come to accept his lot (grudgingly at times)
When a number of over-90s were interviewed, the majority said the three things they would change if they lived their lives again were:
(1) Spend more time with my family and friends
(2) Take more risks
(3) Do things that will live on after I’m gone.
That last point is important… to leave a worthwhile legacy for those who follow
- Kindness, goodness, humility, tenderness, helpfulness, humour
- So when people speak my name in years to come it will be with thankful hearts
As we get older, we’re bound to have a few regrets… We say “if only!”
But as Sophia Loren once said: “Mistakes are part of the dues that one pays for a full life”
- But also, perhaps, to wonder: Has my life been worthwhile OR Is my life worthwhile?
- FILM: It’s a Wonderful Life…
Lots of things happen in life… most of them unexceptional… some of them bewildering… and is there such a thing as coincidence?
In America… a lost ring found in a lake when she was swimming but couldn’t trace the owner, even though his name was engraved on it… She nearly threw it away at one point… Over the next 20 years, she moved house nine times and had only been living in her new house for 2 weeks when a hot air balloon crashed into their fence. No one was hurt. The hot air balloonists gave their details etc and the woman realised that the name of one of them was familiar… It was the very person that had lost the ring in the lake 20 years before!
But most of life is ‘ordinary’ and most people are ordinary…
- God loves ordinary people; that’s why He made so many of us!
Someone has written:
“If a man is a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that the hosts of heaven will pause and say: Here lived a great street cleaner, who did his job well”
- One American statesman, Bernard Baruch was asked who was the greatest personality of the age… He replied:
The fellow who does his job every day. The mother who has children and gets them breakfast, keeps them clean and sends them off to school. The person who keeps the streets clean… The ‘unknown soldiers’—millions of them!
The same is true for any supposedly ‘ordinary’ task in life, whether at work or in the home…
Yet we are also extraordinary… in fact made in the image of God … Wow!
Whatever period of life we are in, it’s important to remember four things:
- You will have forgotten most of the work, sacrifice and effort you’ve made down the years to help others… but God has not!
- Some of the things that we have worked and prayed for down the years will continue long after we have moved on or even died
- Harvest is a time of gathering in the ‘fruit’… so enjoy the fruit of your life’s labour! LIVE EACH DAY THANKFULLY
- As we approach winter, nature has a beautiful secret… the ageing plant conceals a new bud for next year’s growth…
And so we can be thankful for the PRESENT and for times past… even dark times when we learned so much about our lives
- And many of us in the room believe that death is not the end of everything… but the beginning of a new sort of life in heaven with Christ, the angels and people who love God as Father
- When Jesus was asked what REALLY matters in life, he didn’t say wealth or status or fame… He said to LOVE GOD and to LOVE OTHERS as much as we love ourselves
If we adopt His priorities with His divine help, it doesn’t matter how young or old or weak we feel, life is supremely worthwhile.
Of course, some are still in the Spring and Summer phases of life…
- Older folk here would say to you… “Use your time well”
- Realise that although possessions and money are very useful, they cannot substitute for love and compassion and serving God
- Make every day count
Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.
“Old” is not a dirty word. Old age is not an illness. It took a long time and a lot of hard work to get here and I see no reason to apologise for my arrival.
Look at everything as though you were seeing it either for the first or last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.